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Ask any Colorado Avalanche fan about Joey Hishon, and they will immediately tell you they have a soft spot in their heart for him. His charismatic persona and unwavering resilience, when faced with a darkness and hurdle that no athlete ever hopes to face, has made him a fan favorite in Denver.
At 5’10” and 170 pounds, Hishon isn’t the biggest guy on the ice, but he plays the game with a big heart. The BSN Avalanche staff has taken notice, rating him at #8 on our ‘Top 25 Under 25’ list, behind only a quintet of NHL stars, and the promising Chris Bigras and Calvin Pickard.
It’s been a long road to the NHL for Joey Hishon, but he appears on the verge of being a permanent fixture on the Avalanche roster.
Who is Joey Hishon?
Hishon was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche with the 17th overall pick in the 2010 draft, an off-the-board pick, thanks to the Avalanche scouting department falling in love with Hishon’s ability to turn his hockey stick into a magic wand.
Hishon the Magician quickly showed that his Central Scouting rating of 55th among North American skaters was far too low on draft day, tearing up the OHL with a 37 goal and 87 point season over 50 games during the 2010-11 season. The Owen Sound Attack forward dominated games with his elite stick handling and playmaking, both rated as the best in the OHL’s Western Conference in a rival coach’s poll.
All was well for the promising center, who looked primed to join forces up the middle with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly who had been drafted the year prior. Then Hishon took a devastating elbow to the head during the 2011 Memorial Cup playoffs, ending his season, and detouring his path to the NHL.
[pullquote]IMPROVED ON ICE AWARENESS, ELITE GAME-PROCESSING AND DECISION MAKING, AND STRONG POSITIONAL PLAY HAVE TURNED HISHON INTO A PLAYER WHO CAN BE DEPENDED ON IN ALL-SITUATIONS, NO MATTER WHERE HE IS ON THE ICE[/pullquote]
22 months away from hockey was the result of the hit by Brayden McNabb for Hishon, but the burning desire to play in the NHL was never extinguished. Joey battled his way back onto the ice, and made his professional hockey debut on March 19, 2013, but suffered another concussion within a few weeks.
The 2013-14 season saw Hishon take a major leap forward toward realizing his NHL dream. He got through an entire season without any concussion issues, and was granted a three-game dose of playoff hockey in the Avalanche’s playoff series with the Wild. Hish picked up an assist on a Jamie McGinn goal in game seven of that series.
Last season, Hishon put up 16 goals and 35 points in 52 games for the Lake Erie Monsters, but it was his defensive game that started to shine. With the talented Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, and Ryan O’Reilly all preferring the center-ice position on the NHL roster, Hishon realized he needed to reinvent his game.
Improved on ice awareness, elite game-processing and decision making, and strong positional play have turned Hishon into a player who can be depended on in all-situations, no matter where he is on the ice.
He got a chance to showcase this with the Avalanche late last season, with a 13-game stint in the big leagues. Primarily used as a checking center on the third and fourth lines, Hishon proved he belonged.
He even brought down the Mile High house at Pepsi Center, with his first career National Hockey League goal last April, which ended up being a game winner.
What is the future for Joey Hishon?
A player with the offensive upside of Hishon, who has committed himself to being a complete hockey player certainly belongs in the NHL. His role and health are the only two questions going forward.
It will be next to impossible for Hishon to take away top-six minutes from Duchene, MacKinnon, or O’Reilly at the center ice position. However, aside from John Mitchell, there aren’t many worthy candidates on the roster for that third-line center ice position.
I’d love to see Hishon take over that third-line role, with some bigger forwards such as Jamie McGinn, Dennis Everberg, or John Mitchell on the wings, to compliment Hishon’s game.
If Hishon can add some wing versatility to his own repertoire, and showcase that to the Avalanche coaching staff, he might even be a candidate to see some time on Matt Duchene or Nathan MacKinnon’s wing.
I’ve been a vocal supporter of Hishon and his talents for a while now on the inter-webs, so I’ll go on record and say, I think it’s a travesty if he isn’t playing for the Colorado Avalanche next October. I’m a sucker for magic, but Hishon has proven, he’s NHL material.